BRIDGE AT NEW BRIDGE

First constructed in 1744, strategic in the American Revolution, New Bridge prospered for more than a century after the war as a commercial crossroads, situated where a major overland thoroughfare of travel and trade intersected the head of sloop navigation on the Hackensack River. 

Historic Swing Bridge
by Kevin W. Wright

The 1889 iron truss swing bridge stands at the historic core of New Bridge, spanning the narrows of the Hackensack River, and occupying the very place of an earlier oak draw-bridge where the Continental army crossed in November 1776. The oldest highway swing bridge to survive in New Jersey, it has achieved significance in its own right. Manually operated, it was erected in 1889 to speed the passage of schooners and testifies to the importance of commercial river traffic at that date. The New Bridge is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places as the oldest highway swing bridge in the State of New Jersey in 1989. Owned by the County of Bergen, the bridge continues to serves as an important connection for the community between New Milford, Teaneck and River Edge and the New Bridge Landing Train Station in River Edge.

Pictured is a schooner passing through another swing bridge on the Hackensack River (not New Bridge.)

In July 1888, the County of Bergen awarded contracts for erecting an iron bridge at New Bridge to the King Iron Company for a low bid of $3,990 and for the stonework to Joseph W. Stagg for $3,994. In August 1888, Joseph Stagg removed the old bridge and began laying stone for the abutments. The new iron swing bridge was opened on Monday, February 4, 1889. At their monthly meeting on that same date, the Board of Chosen Freeholders were presented a bill for $100 in favor of Joseph Stagg for building a temporary foot-bridge across the Hackensack River at Cherry Hill, which apparently served the citizens of New Bridge during the six months that they waited for the iron bridge to be installed.

The Bergen County Historical Society deeded a right-of-way, sixty-feet wide, with ten-foot slope rights, across its property for $1.00 on January 13, 1953, to provide for an extension of Hackensack Avenue northeast from the intersection of Main Street in River Edge to the site of a proposed new bridge. In December 1953, the Bergen County Board of Freeholders announced plans to replace the narrow iron bridge with a modern span as part of a proposed military highway to connect Hackensack and Englewood.

1949 Site Plan prior to the 1956 bridge and roadway is built. Shows the earlier plan for the four-lane bridge along side the Steuben House. The Steuben House is located in yellow.

The new roadway and bridge, projected to cost $500,000, was declared a military route to gain federal dollars. On November 11, 1954, the Freeholders applied to the Federal Bureau of Public Roads for approximately $250,000 in federal aid for the project. The new bridge was designed forty-four feet wide and 250 feet in length. In comparison, the old iron swing bridge was twenty feet wide and 100 feet long. The Army Corps of Engineers considered the old bridge an impediment to navigation and tried to make its removal a permit requirement for erection of its replacement. The Woman’s Club of Bergen County joined the Bergen County Historical Society in a call to preserve the 1889 swing-bridge across the Hackensack River. Colonel John T. O’Neill, of the Army Corps of Engineers, yielded to Freeholder Walter M. Neill, who promised that the County of Bergen would henceforth maintain the old bridge, if it were spared. The bridge is still an important pedestrian and commuter crossing for residents in River Edge, Hackensack, New Milford, Teaneck and Bergenfield.

The extant historic New Bridge also deserves interpretation in its own right and not only as the site of the earlier Bridge That Saved A Nation. The Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a contract to the Progressive Machine Company in June 2001 for inspection services in order to ascertain the deteriorated areas of the historic New Bridge as part of a plan and program of repair and restoration. The goals of the historic bridge rehabilitation project were: to strip, prepare and paint the bridge; to repair/replace broken and missing structural steel components; to repair/reconstruct connections, joints and rivets; to clean the operating mechanism and to paint and stabilize the bridge; to stabilize masonry embankments; to repair/replace wood decking and reattach as required; and to remove all loose fender material not to be replaced. As part of the adjacent roadway improvements, the existing metal curbs blocking vehicular access at the approaches were replaced with removable wooden bollards. The County of Bergen completed a restoration of the bridge in November 2002.

Excerpts from Historic New Bridge Landing, Revised Draft Master Plan, March 1, 2010 and The Bridge That Saved a Nation, Bergen County, New Bridge and The Hackensack Valley, both written by Kevin W. Wright.

1956: Last cars to go over the one-lane 1889 Swing Bridge.

BCHS, PO Box 55, River Edge, NJ 07661  •  info@BergenCountyHistory.org
HNBL, 1201-1209 Main St, River Edge, NJ 07661  •  Ph: 201-343-9492

The Bergen County Historical Society is a volunteer, membership, 501(c)(3) non profit organization that was founded in 1902.

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